The problem with doing what you love

A recent article in Slate magazine commented on problems with the advice to “do what you love.”   Jordan Ballor discusses both the advice and the article from a Christian perspective on the ThinkChristian blog:

It may be tempting to balance Tokumitsu’s critique of DWYL by emphasizing the other-directedness of human labor. We work so that we may serve others, and this service lends meaningfulness to work. There’s a great deal of truth to this as well, and the objective element of human service does help to mitigate the narcissism of DWYL. In this way, prices and profit help signal the value of our work for others. They pay us when what we do is useful to them in some way, and the level of compensation is indicative of the quality and timeliness of that service.

And yet even the extremes of selfishness and selflessness leave us with a truncated view of work. On the extreme end of selfishness is the one who pursues activities regardless of the effect on others. This error is not concerned with the usefulness of one’s work for anyone else. The value of one’s vocation is not measured in terms of productivity or utility.Subjective self-satisfaction and self-expression is what matters.

The other error subsumes a person and his or her labor entirely to the interests of others. In its most extreme form, this is found in the institution of slavery. The slave simply becomes a unit of utility oriented to and determined entirely by the interests of another.

Read more here. Image: Jennifer Woodruff Tait.

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